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December 09, 1993 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-12-09

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, December 9, 1993 - 7

Is media a player in escalating societal violence?

Realism, not elimination, key to curbing problem

L _I

Pictured here are Beavis and Butt-head playing frog baseball. You be the judge: violence or not?
Faulty parenting, not TV and film, causes tragedy

Let's have a nice round of
applause for'our new ad-
ministration: Big Brother.
Well, not quite, but subtle fascism is
looming large once again at the be-
hest of some politicos who think they
can mapdate what we see and hear
because they know better. What they
know is absolutely zip, zilch, nada.-
Some see it as a good thing that a
United States senator can proselytize
about television shows that he's never
seen, but it makes you wonder if sena-
tors put as much research into topics
as a freshman does into a term paper.
"Beavis and Butt-head," the ani-
mated show on MTV created by Mike
Judge, has become the poster-child
for Attorney General Janet Reno's
crusade against violence in television
and film. After Sen. Ernest F. Hollings
(D-SC) displayed his ignorance be-
fore a senate sub-committee by mum-
bling about "Buffcoat and Beaver, or
Beaver and something else," no sa-
cred entertainment icon can be above
scrutiny. (What would Freud say about
the senator's choice of words? He
picks two words at random and comes
up with 'buffcoat' and 'beaver'?)
What has prompted this intense
reaction? Nothing out of the ordinary.
Washington has been trying to con-
trol the entertainment industry for
eons. During the cold war, Holly-
wood filmmakers were blacklisted and
could never work again. Even though
that wasn't billed as government cen-
sorship, blacklists and communist
suspicions were used to eliminate
entertainers because of the content of
their work, not because of their politi-
cal aspirations. Today, political trap-
pings are tossed out, and lawmakers
instead hide behind a facade of con-
cern for the American public.
Several recent incidents have fired
up the paternal instincts of our legis-
lators. First an off-hand remark by
Butt-head about "lighting one in
Stuart's cat's butt" gets an innocent
feline killed rather messily, and starts
a letter-writing campaign to cancel
"B&B." Then there's the big brou-

haha over "NYPD Blue" and its vile
images of naked behinds, not to men-
tion the Disney film "The Program"
which is teaching teenagers new ways
to commit idiocide. Can anyone truly
believe that a television program or a
film or a book could have such an
effect on someone's life that it would
cause that person to do something
they wouldn't normally have done?
In the early '80s we had parents
wanting to ban the role-playing game
Dungeons & Dragons because kids
Neurosis doesn't
develop overnight, and
neither does a taste for
blowing up animals or
for risking your life in
stupid macho stunts.
ran around naked chopping each
other's heads off. Also in the'80s, we
had parents who wanted to sue heavy
metal musicians because their kids
chose those records to be the
soundtrack to suicides. Now, parents
want to censor a television show be-
cause a child managed to start a fire
that killed his two-year-old sister.
While these events are tragic, the in-
fluence of entertainment media isn't
the thread which pulls them all to-
gether. The thing which defines these
situations, and others like them, is the
lack of parental input until after the
tragedy has already occurred.
. The amount of involvement par-
ents have with their children has de-
clined over the years. Studies done on
the subject show that a good number
of parents use television as a way to
entertain and keep their child busy,
coining the term "electronic baby-
sitter." The question here must be, if
a parent exerts no control over what
the child sees and hears, can that
parent hold the source of the objec-'
tionable material responsible for its
effect on the child?
Take "Beavis & Butt-head" for
example. MTV is a cable channel,
and cable channels can be locked out. I

If it's something you don't want your
kid to see, then you lock it out. Or talk
with the kid and explain what it is
about it you don't like, but do some-
thing. Too many parents today have
no idea what kinds of images their
children are exposed to. Where are
these parents when the kids are watch-
ing TV? Where are these parents when
their children are listening to 2 Live
Crew? Neurosis doesn't develop over-
night, and neither does a taste for
blowing up animals or for risking
your life in stupid macho stunts.
But this whole line of discussion
is moot. The entertainment media will
censor themselves, as they have done
in the past. The motion picture ratings
system, which followed the near-sa-
distic Hayes Code, was put in place
by the industry itself in response to
claims of too much violence in films.
The recording industry bowed to pres-
sure to sticker their product, and tele-
vision will most assuredly follow their
lead. MTV has already moved "Beavis
& Butt-head" to a later time-slot, and
Disney has spent an estimated
$300,000 to edit a scene from each
and every print of "The Program."
While these measures seem innocu-
ous, they still smack of self-censor-
ship, and of the hypocrisy of a system
which would rather censor itself then
face the red pens of the government.
Most children today are capable
of learning the difference between
reality and fantasy if they are taught.
Magazines like "Entertainment
Weekly" even provide lists of the
violence, sexual explicitness and pro-
fanity levels in newly released films
so that parents can have some input
into what choices their children make.
Yes, parental input. A novel concept,
eh? Believe it or not, it is possible to
be aware of what your children see
and hear, even when they're at some-
one else's house or at school. Oh, but
isn't that alot of effort? Well, yes. It's
called parenting. Some people do it,
and some, obviously, do not.

t is a scene which is played out
almostevery day in emergency
rooms around the nation. On
one of the gurneys which fill what
little space there is, a young man of 14
years, a kid really, is staining a sheet
with his blood. A doctor works on
getting the gunshot wound in the boy's
belly to stop bleeding. Trying tojudge
the boy's condition, as well as com-
fort both the patient and himself, the
doctor tries to maintain a conversa-
tion while he works.
"So where do you go to school?"
is one of the small-talk phrases the
young MD uses between giving in-
structions to a nurse.
The boy doesn't respond to the
question, but instead is focused on
one thing. "It hurts real bad."
A combination of fear, agony and
even surprise, the simple statement
says a lot. It hurts. It neverhurt Wesley
or Billy Dee. When Billy Dee got
slashed in the face in "Nighthawks,"
and is being rolled through the ER, he
stoically tells Sly "You should have
taken the shot." No tears, no moans.
He "took it like a man."
Whether or not "The A-Team"
was responsible for the kid being at
the shoot-out that night is something
currently being debated. But if it was,
it may not be solely for the reason
people state. Maybe it is not due to the
amount of violence per se, but rather
to the amount of unrealistic violence
The universe of
television and movies
is an almost idealistic
place. Love Is lost and
regained in a single
cruise of the Pacific
Princess. The
television reporter with
spunk" gets a happy
ending in 30 minutes.
And no one ever gets
hurt. People may get
killed, but they are
never hurt.
which so many people take in through
the media.
The universe of television and
movies is an almost idealistic place.
Love is lost and regained in a single
cruise of the Pacific Princess. The
television reporter with "spunk" gets
a happy ending in 30 minutes. And no
one ever gets hurt. People may get
killed, but they are never hurt.
Sound crazy? Look at a Steven
Segal or Stallone picture. People get
shot everywhere, but do we ever see
them in pain. People are shot and
killed instantly. Or they gettheirshoul-
der pushed through a running hack-
saw. They most certainly are in pain,
but we never see that, because the
hero moves on to "not hurt" others.
And then there are those "killed, but
not enough to keep them out of the
picture," such as Alexander Godunov
in "Die Hard." His character gets the
crap beat out of him, and is left limp

and (supposedly) lifeless on a hook
20 feet up. But he comes back. Is he
crying or bent over in pain? No, he is
aiming a gun at Bruce Willis in a
noble attempt to avenge his dead
When "Reservoir Dogs" hit the-
aters last year, all the talk was about
how violent it was. One popular movie
magazine gave auteur Quentin
Tarantino the middle name "Violence
can be fun." But the point is that the
People bleed. People
hurt. And people die.
And very rarely, in the
real world, do people
' go gently into that
good night.
violence was not fun, nor was there a
lot of it. Bullet for bullet, squib for
squib, "Reservoir Dogs" pales next to
other movies such as "The Killer" or
"Rambo III." Yet despite that, the
film was tagged "ultra-violent." Why?
Realism is what marked "Reser-
voir Dogs" as an extremely violent
film. After the opening credits, we
see Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), shot in
the gut. Is he gritting his teeth and

telling Mr. White to go on without
him as Billy Dee would have done?
No, he is in pain. Excruciating pain,
lying in the back seat of a stolen car,
bathed in his own blood, screaming in
total agony "Jesus, I'm going to die."
Glamorous is one of the last adjec-,
tives one would use to describe that
injury. And Mr. Orange had not al-
ready shot 20 people before getting
hit - he hadn't gotten off a single
round at that point. Would the kid,d
who is as you read this lying either on;
a starched hospital bed or on a cold
stainless steel table, have been as wild-
ing to pick up his gun and face others"
similarly armed if he knew that would
happen to someone? Possibly, but it
seems unlikely. Instead, he hit the
streets with a Walter Middy mind,
seeing himself the hero, winning the
body count, not getting hurt. Wesley
and Billy Dee never do.
Maybe we need less violence.
Probably, though, we need more real-
istic violence. If kids are getting their
views from the media as so many are
saying, maybe we should not cut out
the messages all together, but change
them so people know the real score.
People bleed. People hurt. And people
die. And very rarely, in the real world,
do people go gently into that good
night. And in the real world, neither
do Wesley or Billy Dee.

Wesley may not shed tears on screen, but we know he's a sensitive man.


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